– By Kathleen Tuite, Early Childhood Ireland
In our Scéalta blog post this week, we roundup some of our previous blog posts about outdoor play, provision and practice within Early Years settings. We encourage educators to have a look back at some of the amazing contributions received on outdoor play over the year stretching from 2022 to 2023. Each post gives a view of outdoor play and practice with reflections on how settings made significant changes to their outdoors. Sharing reflections on their journey to quality outdoor provision and tips on how to create opportunities for children to play and learn outdoors, even in small spaces.
In November 2022, Margaret Kernan and a team of educators she worked with wrote about ‘Embracing Changes Outdoors for Children Under Three’. Highlighting that it can be challenging as an Early Childhood Education and Care educator to provide interesting experiences for very young children outdoors every day. This is especially so when there are many rules and regulations about what is allowed or not allowed and what is possible with available outdoor space.
Lee Herlihy wrote about her experiences of embracing outdoor play in a post in June 2022. In her post called ‘Just Open the Door’ she says ‘For many years, the outdoor area was for us ‘additional’ space, one we would use like punctuation marks in the middle of our day, learning happened inside, and outside?… Well, outside was where we brought the children to burn off energy, to run around for a time, to go on the trikes, before returning inside’. ‘There was a clear division, and although we tried hard to keep the balance right, the outdoor area always came in second. But somehow, we have created a space that exceeds its boundaries, a space owned by children, and a space that is now at the very heart of all our practice’.
Also in June 2022, Máire Corbett from Early Childhood Ireland wrote about reflecting on the wonderful opportunities for play and fun outdoors and wonders why we ever go inside in a post ‘Move Outside’.
In May 2022, we had a series of posts on outdoor play
Yvonne O’Sullivan from Naíonrá na nÓg begaan the series when she wrote about ‘Maximising the Outdoor Opportunities’, Outdoor spaces don’t have to be large to afford children opportunities to explore, think, experience nature and be adventurous. Yvonne explains how she has used the small outdoor spaces she has to provide a range of diverse opportunities for children to play outdoors.
Máire Corbett continued the series in a post called ‘Bringing the Emotions Outside’. She reflects on how outdoor play plays a key role in children’s growth and development, both physical and emotional… in the here and now and into their future.
And in the final post of the series, Mag Coogan talks about ‘Great Play in Small Spaces’ Mag says ‘Sometimes it can seem that large spaces are needed to provide outdoor play opportunities for children’. Our garden, while small, has everything to support learning and development opportunities and we are so glad we went from big to small. The children’s play is more focused, adventurous, and creative.
In April 2022, Denise Sheridan from Ulla Beag wrote about ‘Loose Parts and Small-Scale Outdoor Gardening’. Denise outlines how she uses loose parts in the outdoor space at her setting in County Clare. Uninterrupted outdoor play-based learning is how children learn optimally and by designing suitable environments we provide opportunities for the development of multi-layered complex levels of play.
And finally, in April 2022, Chloe Keegan from Early Childhood Ireland wrote about ‘The Relationship Between Our Buildings and Our Outdoors’. The environment has a large impact on what and how children learn. Chloe reminds us of the guidance to be found in the Universal Design Guidelines for Early Learning and Care, when thinking or redesigning your outdoor space.
We hope these blogs and indeed all previous blog posts can inspire, challenge and support you to find innovative ways to create outdoor spaces which children will explore, create and love!